Cannabis (Marijuana) : Psychoactive Properties, Addiction, Therapeutic Uses, and Toxicity, Sumanasekera W.K. and Spio K., 2016

Cannabis (Marijuana) : Psychoactive Properties, Addiction, Therapeutic Uses, and Toxicity

Sumanasekera W.K. and Spio K.

Journal of Addictive Behaviors, Therapy and Rehabilitation, 2016, 5, 2, 1-9.

Doi : 10.4172/2324-9005.10001562016



Background and Objectives : To analyze the existing literature on cannabis (marijuana) under several sub topics; history of use, addiction, mechanism of action, therapeutic uses, and adverse effects.

Methods : A comprehensive literature search was conducted. Data sources include original research articles, systematic reviews and meta- analysis, and web-based references such as Drug strategy monographs and Merck Index. Data bases such as PubMed and Cinhal was used. References were from 1979 -2016.

Hypothesis : Based on the available literature it can be hypothesized that despite the addictive properties and adverse effects, marijuana has a therapeutic potential and should be used with caution.

Results : The available literature on cannabis smoke was discussed under five major categories, which are history of use, addiction, mechanism of action, therapeutic uses, and adverse effects.

Discussion and Conclusions : Marijuana (preparations of the hemp plant, cannabis sativa), is usually consumed as a smoke. It is an addictive compound that has been consumed for medical ailments for generations. The mechanism of action of cannabis was not known until the recent discovery of the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids are released from the post-synaptic neurons and act on the pre-synaptic neurons. Δ-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component present in Cannabis behaves similar to endocannabinoids. In addition to psychoactive modulations, cannabis consumption leads to cognitive impairments. Despite its’ medicinal and recreational value, due to its’ addictive properties cannabis consumption has been banned by several countries. In US, recreational and therapeutic use of cannabis is recently allowed in some states.

Scientific Significance : Despite the psychoactivity associated with cannabis consumption, it can be used therapeutically for many diseases including epilepsy and to alleviate chronic neuropathic pain associated with many sicknesses. Cannabis also possesses anti-cancer properties. However, strict laws should be enforced to avoid its’ abuse while allowing its’ medicinal use.

Keywords : Addiction; Anti-cancer; Therapeutics; Toxicity; Psychoactive; Inhibitory neurotransmitters



Cannabis (marijuana) is a derivative from the hemp plant and a very addictive constituent. Cannabis leaves can be combusted and consumed as smoke. Cannabis consumption leads to psychoactive behaviors that can lead to addiction. It is the most commonly used psychoactive substance which is under international control [1].

In 1964 Δ-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was identified to be the psychoactive constituent of marijuana [2]. Chronic use of smoked Marijuana can lead to symptoms of obstructive lung disease [3]. Marijuana is still illegal in many countries. Cannabis causes mind-altering effects and it is derived from the plant Cannabis sativa [4]. Beside marijuana, cannabis is also known as ganja, grass, hashish, Indian hemp pot, reefer and weed among many others. THC is the mind-altering component present in marijuana [2]. The cannabinoids are compounds structurally similar to THC [5]. Its preparations are used as psychotic drug and in many instances it is consumed for its mental and physical effects. In other words, it is used recreationally or as medicinal drug.

Though marijuana’s therapeutic potential was obvious as seen by the effects it caused on patients, many countries, including the United States hesitated to accept its’ therapeutic benefits for a long period. In 2004 UN estimated that about 4% of the world’s population (approximately 162 million people) used cannabis annually and about 0.6% (22.5 million) on a daily basis. The possession, preparation, sale,
distribution and use of cannabis became illegal in most parts of the world in the early 20th century. Based on the UN’s report, cannabis is the most used illegal drug in the world [1].

Marijuana was categorized under schedule 1 drug, which is one of the most hazardous drugs, by the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) [6]. However, recently medical cannabis has been approved by many US states due to the obvious benefits seen in patients. Europe has taken the lead in Legalization of medical marijuana and many states of US are following the same path.

The abuse potential and the toxicity of cannabis lead to the slow legalization process of medical marijuana. The objective of this paper is to review the available literature on the addiction, mechanism
of action, therapeutic use and toxicity of cannabis with the goal of broadening the understanding of medical cannabis.